The race for Maricopa County Sheriff is turning downright ugly. Supporters of Democrat Paul Penzone have been running some pretty graphic ads against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And today the sheriff's allies fired back, accusing Penzone of assaulting his wife.
The latest poll numbers show Arpaio ahead by 5 points, but that lead has been shrinking.
Sheriff Arpaio's camp says they wouldn't have put out such a negative ad if Penzone's campaign wasn't so negative.
The incident happened almost 10 years ago. Penzone and his then wife were separated, about to get a divorce.
Anti-Penzone ad voiceover: "Paul Penzone pushed his then-wife against a door injuring her in front of their child… he's tried to explain away but there's no excuse for hitting a woman."
However, the ad fails to mention the other side of the story. The report states Paul Penzone told police she hit him in the face with a hockey stick. In fact, he was the one who called police first.
And it appears their son was there -- but it's not clear how much of it he witnessed. Prosecutors dropped the case altogether, saying there are "two different sides to the story" and "no independent witnesses."
"I have never harmed any woman or child including my ex-wife at any time in my life," Democratic candidate Paul Penzone said Thursday at a press conference.
Penzone is calling the latest attack against him a misrepresentation of what happened.
"10 years ago I went through a difficult divorce. It was unfortunate that my ex-wife struck me with a hockey stick," said Penzone.
An hour after Penzone reported the incident, officers interviewed his estranged wife. Penzone says his ex claimed she hit him with a hockey stick because he pushed her into a door. The report doesn't mention "hitting."
According to a police report she had a small bump on her head -- and Penzone had a cut on his face as well.
"It's an untruthful statement, I never harmed her then or any other time," said Penzone.
No arrests were made and no charges were filed. Sheriff Arpaio's campaign stands behind the ad saying: "Sheriff Arpaio has been running positive ads about his record and his policies. However, both the Penzone campaign and its allies have been running vicious and distorted personal attack ads against the sheriff for months now."
Anti-Arpaio ad voiceover: "He threw me to the ground he pulled down my pants and I tried to scream but... Sheriff Arpaio why didn't you do something?"
The script in that ad was read by an actress and based on an actual El Mirage Police report, cited in a book written by former El Mirage Assistant Police Chief.
"This situation occurred in 2005 when it came my attention in 2007 I formed a task force to get to the bottom of the situation," said Arpaio.
The sheriff's office did reopen the 432 cases. Detectives eventually made 19 arrests. 116 cases were declared unfounded, and 67 were classified as cold cases.
Sheriff Arpaio did not agree to talk on camera, but said the ad is based in fact and references exact words from his ex-wife's description of the altercation.
As for Penzone, from the beginning of his campaign, Penzone has openly talked about this incident. He says he has nothing to hide.